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Rebels should beware of Coyotes

A game against a Summit League opponent with a 3-7 record on a somewhat neutral floor would not ordinarily be the type of spot to put UNLV on high alert.

The Rebels would be wise to prepare themselves for a stiff challenge on Saturday, however.

Not only is UNLV itself struggling to find an identity at this point in the season, but South Dakota appears to be better than its record would indicate.

The Coyotes are coming off a double-overtime road loss at Creighton. South Dakota also lost on the road in overtime at Fairfield and dropped a triple-overtime affair to Sam Houston State on a neutral court.

While UNLV earned a home victory over that same Sam Houston State squad, South Dakota fared much better against a second common opponent.

While the Rebels were blown out by Stanford on a neutral floor, the Coyotes dropped an 84-73 affair on the road to the Cardinal.

The best stretch of the season thus far came in back-to-back road wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State Northridge.

Of course, the results haven’t all been encouraging as one would expect from a 3-7 team. South Dakota lost 87-79 at home to Youngstown State last week.

UNLV fans will certainly notice a familiar face when South Dakota takes the floor. Senior guard Tyler Larson is a Desert Pines alum and one of the top two scorers for the Coyotes.

Larson’s 16.1 points per game ranks second on the team to classmate and fellow guard Brandon Bos, who is putting up 17 points per contest.

Larson, however, leads the team in rebounding and assists.

The only other South Dakota player to start all 10 games for the Coyotes is another guard, Tre Burnette.

South Dakota averages 7.2 made 3-pointers per game, more than 1.5 more than its opponents make per contest.

Coyotes first-year coach Craig Smith, a Tim Miles protege, said in a radio interview on Friday his team was excited to get a big-name opponent like UNLV at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, about an hour away from campus. This is a major opportunity for the program.

Smith is very well-acquainted with the Rebels from his time as an assistant to Miles at Colorado State.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.

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